At least seven people have been killed in London after a vehicle attack on London Bridge followed by a stabbing spree. Twelve people have been arrested in connection with the attack.
Three knife-wielding attackers in a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday evening before going on a stabbing spree in nearby streets and bars in what authorities described as a new trend in militant Islamist terrorism.
Seven people died and dozens of others were injured in the attacks on the bridge and in the nearby busy Borough Market area before police shot dead the three men, who were wearing what looked like explosive vests that later turned out to be fakes. Police managed to kill the attackers within eight minutes of receiving first emergency calls.
Twelve people were arrested in counterterrorism raids in the Barking area of east London, police said on Sunday.
“The investigation into last night’s horrific attack in London is progressing rapidly as the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) continue to piece together exactly what occurred,” police said in a statement, adding that “a number of addresses” in Barking continue to be searched.
Read here how events unfolded
The London Ambulance Service said 48 people had been transported to five hospitals across the British capital. A London Transport Police officer armed only with a baton when he confronted the attackers was among those seriously injured with face, leg and head stab wounds.
German officials confirmed on Sunday that two Germans were hurt in the attack, including one person who was severely injured. A Canadian was killed in the attack and a Spanish citizen, one Australian and four French people were also among the wounded.
At the time of the attacks – around 10:00 p.m. local time (2100 UTC) – streets around London Bridge and Borough Market were crowded with people enjoying a Saturday night out in the district’s fashionable bars and restaurants.
British broadcaster BBC radio said witnesses described people throwing tables and chairs at the attackers to protect themselves.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which come days ahead of a June 8 national election, and less than two weeks after 22 people were killed in a suicide attack in the northern city of Manchester while attending a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande.
Saturday’s attacks bore similarities to one in March on Westminster Bridge in London, in which a man plowed into a crowd of pedestrians, killing five, and then stabbed a police officer to death in the grounds of parliament before being shot dead.
Read: Ariana Grande visits Manchester bombing victims
Following a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee on Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement in which she called for increased unity in face of the terrorist threat.
“We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are,” May said, calling for more international control of the internet to take away terrorists’ “safe spaces” to spread their ideology and gain recruits. She added that in the real world “there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.”
May said Saturday’s attacks were not connected to the Manchester and Westminster attacks in planning, but they were inspired by a “single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism” that perverted Islam as irreconcilable with Western values of tolerance and democracy.
“We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism,” she said. “Perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots … and not even as lone attackers radicalized online, but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.”
She concluded her comments by saying: “United we will take on and defeat our enemies.”
Both the ruling Conservative Party and the Labour Party said on Sunday they would suspend their national campaigning for the upcoming election for a day.
However, the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) said it would continue with its campaign, with leader Paul Nuttall saying that a suspension of campaigning was “precisely what the extremists would want us to do.”
British police have asked for people with photos or videos of the incidents to hand them to authorities so they can be used as possible evidence.
World leaders were quick to condemn the attacks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement that her thoughts were with victims and their families and that Germany “stood firmly and resolutely at Great Britain’s side against every form of terrorism.”
US President Donald Trump offered US assistance to Britain but also used the incident as an opportunity to call for his ban on travelers to the US from several Muslim countries – which he sees as a security measure – to go into force.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that “France is standing more than ever side by side with the UK.” France itself is still under a state of emergency after a string of Islamic extremist attacks.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on British citizens not to be cowed by the attacks and to vote on Thursday, as “one of the things these terrorists hate is voting; they hate democracy.”